In preparing and checking our material on the Assemblies of God we came upon some questions which seemed to require corroboration from the headquarters of this church itself, so we wrote their office in Springfield, Missouri. Soon there came a prompt and courteous reply from J. Roswell Flower, general secretary of the organization. His reply to our questions was so comprehensive and informative that we asked his permission to reproduce the material in THE MINISTRY. We present it here as a link in our series of studies on various denominations and beliefs.-M.H.T.
In order to understand the movement, it should be noted that no one person can be named as its founder. It began with the turn of the century in a spontaneous movement which affected not only the United States but Great Britain, Sweden, Norway, South Africa, and Chile, South America. The churches claiming to be Pentecostal are independent and sovereign of each other, but large numbers of them have gathered themselves together in co-operative movements, the largest body being the Assemblies of God, with headquarters at Springfield, Missouri; the Church of God with headquarters at Cleveland, Tennessee; the Pentecostal Holiness Church, with headquarters in Franklin Springs, Georgia ; and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, with headquarters in Los Angeles.
The Assemblies of God, which is by far the largest body, has a congregational government. The Pentecostal Holiness Church and the Church of God of Cleveland, Tennessee, have more of an episcopal form of government.
The denominational name is "The Assembliesof God." Each church is designated an "Assembly of God." Therefore, it is proper to use the term The Assemblies of God in the singular and also in the plural.
The Assemblies of God was organized in the year 1914, the membership at that time consisting of only a few churches. The first attempt to compile a record of membership was made in the year 1927. At that time the executive office had a record of 909 churches, with a total membership of 50,386.
During the first fourteen years of the growth of the movement there was no standard of doctrine, and inasmuch as the movement was being made up of Christians wth all sorts of religious backgrounds, there was considerable confusion in the matter of theology.
In 1914, the same year that the Assemblies of God was organized, a schism developed in the movement involving belief in the Trinity. Some of the ministers withdrew from the newly organized Assemblies of God to form the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. The schism involved the exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ as both Father and Holy Ghost and, therefore, was in essence Unitarian. These people became known as the "One Name" people, and they taught baptism in the name of Jesus only (Acts 2:38), repudiating the baptismal form of Matthew 28:19.
The "One Name" people broke up into several groups which are not recognized by the trinitarians of the Pentecostal Movement. These groups became known as the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ, the Pentecostal Church, Inc., and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. However the first two of these groups later combined under the name United Pentecostal Church, Inc.
The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel found its origin in the Assemblies of God. Mrs. Aimee Semple McPherson was an Assemblies of God minister in 1922, when she withdrew to organize her church. The International Pentecostal Assemblies and the Pentecostal Church of God of America are small organizations of independent churches, which are in nature more like the Assemblies of God. They are trinitarians and orthodox in theology.
The Pentecostal Holiness Church and the Fire-baptized Holiness Church were at one time united. We do not know the details of the separation of the two groups. The Pentecostal Holiness Church was in existence prior to the year 1901, but accepted the Pentecostal teachings, and therefore was recognized as a part of the Pentecostal movement. The Church of God of Cleveland, Tennessee, was also in existence prior to the year 1901, but was very small with only a few congregations. The growth of the Church of God of Cleveland, Tennessee, has been great but not so great as the Assemblies of God. They have issued a history of their movement which can be obtained from their headquarters in Cleveland, Tennessee.
Calvary Pentecostal Church is a small group of independent churches in the Northwest, which have associated themselves in a fellowship for mutual profit and encouragement.
The International Pentecostal Assemblies is loosely organized. It is little more than a credential-issuing bureau. According to the Yearbook of American Churches,* the headquarters is found in Newcastle, Wyoming.
The Pentecostal Church of God in America is patterned more closely after the Assemblies of God, but the churches in that association are very loosely connected. Their headquarters is at Kansas City, Missouri. The Assemblies of God is quite strict in the matter of granting ministerial credentials to divorced and remarried ministers. The Pentecostal Church of God in America does not hold this high standard.
The Churches of God in Christ constitute the colored branch of the Pentecostal movement. Their headquarters is in Memphis, Tennessee. They have developed into a strong, aggressive organization working among the colored people.
The Assemblies of God in Great Britain had their origin as far back as the year 1908. George Jeffreys withdrew from that movement to found the Elim Foursquare Gospel. It was founded after the pattern of the International Foursquare Gospel, of which Aimee Semple McPherson was the leader. It, however, had no organic relationship with the American Foursquare Church.
The Assemblies of God in Great Britain and Ireland, in Sweden, Italy, France, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand are all separate organizations—as separate as the Methodist Church South and the Methodist Church North were before the union. They are bound together with the Assemblies, of God in America only by the bonds of doctrine and Christian fellowship.
The Philadelphia Church in Sweden is also a Pentecostal church. The story of the Philadelphia Church was told recently in United Evangelical Action, official organ of the National Association of Evangelicals, published at East Fourth Street, Cincinnati 2, Ohio.
We are not proud of the schisms which developed in the Pentecostal Movement, but we are proud of the growth of the Assemblies of God, which has far surpassed any of the other branches of the movement, and which has adhered faithfully to orthodoxy.
J. ROSWELL FLOWER, General Secretary, General Council, Assemblies of God.
'Edited by Benson Y. Landis, under the auspices of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, published by Sowers Printing Company, Lebanon, Pennsylvania.